Things come to an end of sorts, as they must. But this is not a happy story.
When last we left, Louis had broken his vow to never make another vampire, turning the dollmaker Madeleine to act as Claudia’s caretaker and in the process bottoming out in his depression. While Louis feels like his world is ending, Madeleine is really taking to this whole vampire thing, and wants to burn down the dress shop that represented her grief for her lost child. It goes surprisingly well, given that they’re in a major metropolitan city. Probably only three city blocks burned down. But the thing we’re given to care about is Claudia and Louis musing on the sidelines, the former musing that fire purifies, the latter now quite convinced it only destroys. This is not in any way foreshadowing.
While Claudia and Madeleine are caught up in each other, Louis goes off to wander the city. It’s at this point in the novel, from now til pretty much the end, that his storytelling starts to get a bit…choppy. Not as in “and then the writing fell off a cliff,” but as a deliberate stylistic choice. After 250 pages of describing things in a very legato manner, all of a sudden it’s “suddenly I was here. This had happened. I don’t know why I was doing that.” Part of is perhaps grief, but it’s also well worth remembering – as we’ve discussed more than once – that Louis hides things. We’re coming, at last, to the memories that are still close to his heart.
And among them is Armand, who’s come to whisk Louis away and teach him how to use his powers. Or…at least how to climb up the sheer side of a bricked off tower, which Armand has been using for a few decades (at least) as his private study and retreat. The owners think he’s the local ghost. I am very fond of imagining the times when Armand decided to “appear” to them just to see what they’d do. And also keen on the way it draws parallels to Louis’ time “haunting” Babette.
Featuring a copious number of manga caps simply because I’d forgotten
how much I enjoyed it
They chill inside for a while, and Louis thinks about his feelings for Armand. Which are, shall we say, complicated.
And there seemed nothing human about him; even his handsome features and dark hair became the attributes of a terrible angel who shared with the rest of us only a superficial resemblance. The tailored coat was a mirage. And though I felt drawn to him, more strongly perhaps than I’d ever been drawn to any living creature save Claudia, he exited me in other ways which resembled fear.
Louis also refers to Armand as “Gentleman Death,” but that won’t be funny until about six months from now. Tab it in your brains for later. So. Attracted but also scared. Louis is definitely locked in romance novel mindset. And given Armand’s relationship with his maker, he probably doesn’t twig to this cocktail of attraction and terror as being particularly out of the ordinary. YUP, THAT SURE IS WHAT THE SEDUCED SHOULD FEEL FOR THE SEDUCER, THIS CHECKS OUT.
First, though, they talk about why they both feel stuck in their respective places in life – Armand doesn’t understand why Louis is still with Claudia, even though she now has Madeleine to care for her, and Louis asks why Armand stays at the Theatre when he’s obviously disdainful of all the vampires there. At which point Armand gives a big long speech that looms over every character from here on out: essentially, that a vampire either moves with the times, or they eventually become unstable and commit suicide.
How many vampires do you thing have the stamina for immortality? They have the most dismal notions of immortality to begin with. For in becoming immortal they want all forms of their life to be fixed as they are and incorruptible…When, in fact, all things change except the vampire himself; everything except the vampire is subject to constant corruption and distortion. Soon, with an inflexible mind, and often even with the most flexible mind, this immortality becomes a penitential sentence in a madhouse of figures and forms that are hopelessly unintelligible and without value. One evening a vampire rises and realizes what he has feared perhaps for decades, that he simply wants no more of life at any cost.
Louis is terrified by this notion, though it makes sense to him as soon as he hears it – and Armand points out, quite rightly, that it’s easy for Louis to say such things because he’s still within a century of his death. Big, earth-shattering changes haven’t really disrupted his world as of yet. And then he tells maybe the greatest lie in the entire pack of lies that make up his role in this story.
“ ‘Love?’ I asked. ‘There was love between you and the vampire who made you?’ I leaned forward.
“ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘A love so strong he couldn’t allow me to grow old and die. A love that waited patiently until I was strong enough to be born to darkness. Do you mean to tell me there was no bond of love between you and the vampire who made you?’
“ ‘None,’ I said quickly. I couldn’t repress a bitter smile.
LIARS. BOTH OF YOU. Armand, that isn’t called love it’s called “statutory rape,” and it’s awfully convenient that you were finally strong enough to be turned riiiiiiiiiiiight before you’d finished puberty. Louis, I cannot believe you’re still on with this “he only killed me to get at my money” bullshit.
BOTH OF YOU GO SIT IN YOUR CORNERS.
This is quite a long heart to heart, by the way, lasting a good few pages just discussing the nature of vampirism, Louis’ reservations and how he believes he’s evil because he takes innocent life, and how Armand really really wants Louis because he needs someone who can act as a teacher and help him understand the new world from an emotional, in-the-thick-of-it perspective.
Actually, maybe we’d better take a look at that last part.
“ ‘I never laughed at you,’ he said. ‘I cannot afford to laugh at you. It is through you that I can save myself from the despair which I’ve described to you as our death. It is through you that I must make my link with this nineteenth century and come to understand it in a way that will revitalize me, which I so desperately need. It is for you that I’ve been waiting at the Theatre des Vampires. If I knew a mortal of that sensitivity, that pain, that focus, I would make him a vampire in an instant. But such can rarely be done. No, I’ve had to wait and watch for you. And now I’ll fight for you. Do you see how ruthless I am in love? Is this what you meant by love?’
This yandere motherfucker, y’all
Okay, let’s break it down. I would tentatively tick this in the box for the “Armand is neurodivergent” headcanon: he’s sincere in how he feels about Louis, but that love is also inextricably tied up in the role he wants Louis to play in his life. He wanted a guide, and because he’s found someone who fits those qualifications he was searching for, of course he loves him. But in the same way, if Louis were gone he’d miss the place Louis had in his life perhaps more than the individual. It’s the same as when, not too long after, Armand praises Louis as embodying the spirit of the age – disillusioned, heartbroken, at odds with all that’s come before, and deeply sentimental in the traditional sense. In some ways, Armand’s placed Louis up on a pedestal as much as vice versa.
He’s even trying to be what he thinks Louis wants, telling him that he was hanging around when Madeleine was made, using his mental powers to push Louis into acting (and thus freeing up his dateability) – so therefore Louis should have no reason to hate himself, when he can blame Armand instead (and he really, honest, promises he won’t do it anymore, and his influence doesn’t really work on Louis he swears).
Louis is having none of it, too wrapped up in his self-loathing and how that’s come to define him to hear anything else. He’s tired, he feels trapped…and yet when Armand asks him to run away with him, right there, Louis dithers. It’s a full on romantic proposal too, with Armand at the window and Louis getting ready to climb down. Proper Romeo & Juliet business (in reverse).
“ ‘Louis, come with me tonight,’ he whispered suddenly, with an urgent inflection.
“ ‘No,’ I said gently. ‘It’s too soon. I can’t leave them yet.’
“I watched him turn away and look at the dark sky. He appeared to sigh, but I didn’t hear it. I felt his hand close on mine on the window sill. ‘Very well…’ he said.
“’A little more time…’ I said. And he nodded and patted my and as if to say it was alright.
Spoilers: it is not alright. That little sigh is Armand mentally dusting himself off and thinking, ‘well, I guess I’ll have to kill her after all.’ It’s not clear whether he’d truly intended to let Claudia go before – he tells Louis that it would probably be wise for them to get out of Paris right quick as the night begins – or simply to spirit Louis away and let the Theatre do as they pleased while the pair were tragically too far away to do anything. Probably it didn’t matter much to him, so long as he had Louis.
But Louis’ refusal, even with Claudia materially taken care of, tells Armand that Louis will never be his as long as Claudia is alive. There will always be another excuse, always a thought spared for her when they part. And one of the most defining characteristics of Armand’s personality is a conflicting desire for absolute love and the belief that no one will ever truly give it. So, by his logic: he gets the rival out of the way and gets to comfort Louis, proving he’s a better companion than she ever could have been, and everything is swell.
Spoilers: things are not swell.
And speaking of Shakespeare, there is some damned Shakespearean timing going on here. Louis comes back to the hotel, at last ready to admit to himself – and to Claudia – that he loves Armand and plans to run away with him. He’s making a genuine goodbye, though he promises they’ll meet again someday. The pair embrace, and knowing that Claudia was at least partly inspired by the loss of Anne’s terminally ill child, this is one of the most gut-punching passages in the whole book.
She was resting still against me. I felt her weight, thinking, In a little while, I won’t have her anymore. I want now simply to hold her. There has always been such pleasure in that simple thing. Her weight against me, this hand resting against my neck.
And because Louis felt something like contentment for approximately two seconds, things immediately go to hell. Santiago and co. swarm the room, overwhelm the group, and drag them back to the theatre. Armand is, conspicuously, nowhere to be found. But someone else is.
And if you look to your left, you can see my fave being the actual worst
(You can tell this version is taken from Lestat’s account –
Louis is being held elsewhere at the moment)
SURPRISE! I know you all are completely shocked, forty years later, that the narrator of all the other books turned out not to be dead. He is an a less-than-stellar way, though, still scarred from the fire and easily pushed around by Santiago. It seems he’s come looking for Louis, and no cost is too high.
‘You promised me,’ he said to Santiago, ‘I could take him back with me to New Orleans.’ And hen, as he looked from one to the other of them as they surrounded us, his breath became frantic, and he burst out, ‘Claudia, where is she? She’s the one who did it to me, I told you!’
‘By and by,’ said Santiago.
“ ‘But he helped her, aided her…’ said Santiago,, drawing nearer to him. Lestat looked up.
“ ‘No,’ he said. ‘Louis, you must come back to me. There’s something I must tell you…abut that night in the swamp.’ But then he stopped and looked about again, as though he were caged, wounded, desperate.
“ ‘Listen to me, Lestat,’ I began now. ‘You let her go, you free her…and I will…I’ll return to you,’ I said, the words sounding hollow, metallic. I tried to take a step towards him, to make my eyes hard and unreadable, to feel my power emanating from then like two beams of light. He was looking at me, studying me, struggling all the while against his own fragility.
A quick stopover: Lestat and Armand basically make the same mistake here, an early precursor to how often they’ll be foils later on. They both assume that because Louis has a dependent personality, all they have to do is become the only source of his affection and then wait to reap the benefits. They discount Louis’ own feelings, either his ability to choose them in return or the importance of his bond with Claudia above his feeling of guilt and obligation as her caretaker. This is…kind of a trend that doesn’t go away, since Louis never gets to narrate again, and every other character falls all over themselves to describe how beautiful and sensitive he is. Fetishize that debilitating depression, boys, it’s gonna go great for you! (The best moments in Louis and Lestat’s relationship from here on in will always, always be the moments when Louis makes the proactive choice to engage rather than when Lestat is trying to woo him).
But, anyway; as I’m sure you’re unsurprised to learn, Santiago and co. (and Armand, who is off gloating in Claudia’s general direction while Louis is desperately hoping he’ll show up and save the day) have lied to Lestat in order to use him as a flimsy pretext for their murder spree. The bring in a locked coffin and throw poor, claustrophobic Louis inside, bricking him up in the walls and meaning to let him starve to death. And the scene is pretty damn effective at conveying a sense of suffocation, highlighting not a literal fear of being unable to breath (since he doesn’t have to) but a sense of powerlessness and constriction, and the threat of unmoving silence and starvation if he doesn’t get out.
Fortunately for him, Armand just so happens to show up the next night to break him out, pretending that they’re making a daring escape and there’s no time to save Claudia. But Louis, not so much finding his spine as having nothing less to lose, is fully prepared to die rather than leave without his child. And, surprise surprise, there isn’t actually an army waiting to snatch him up and stuff him back in the wall. What he does find is Lestat, looking pretty pathetic and being mocked by the theatre troupe.
If only Louis had thought to call his brother, Morpheus
[Armand] looked down at Lestat. ‘Are you satisfied?’ he asked him.
“Lestat’s grey eyes seemed to regard Armand with wonder, and his lips struggled to form a word. I could see that his eyes were filling with tears. ‘Yes…’ he whispered now, his hand struggling with the thing he concealed beneath his black cloak. But then he looked at me, and the tears spilled down his face. ‘Louis,’ he said, his voice deep and rich now with what seemed an unbearable struggle. ‘Please, you must listen to me. You must come back…’ And then, bowing his head, he grimaced with shame.
“ ‘This is madness!…’ I said, my hands rising suddenly to my temples. ‘Where is she! Where is she!’ I looked about me, at their still, passive faces, those inscrutable smiles. ‘Lestat.’ I turned him now, grabbing at the black wool of his lapels.
“And then I saw the thing in his hands. I knew what it was. And in an instant I’d ripped it from him and was staring at it, at the fragile silken thing that it was – Claudia’s yellow dress. His hand rose to his lips, his face turned away. And the soft, subdued sobs broke from him as he sat back while I stared at him, while I stared at the dress. My fingers moved slowly over the tears in it, the stains of blood, my hands closing, trembling as I crushed it against my chest.
This is the thing about Lestat. He’s not a heartless monster. He clearly, even from Louis’ perspective, regrets Claudia’s death as soon as it’s done. But he’s an impulsive dipshit who’s clearly bipolar, and his power means that when he flies off the handle he can do a lot more damage than he could ever conceivably make up for when he levels out. And combined with his secrecy (which we’ll talk about the roots of later), it very nearly kills the most meaningful connection he’s made in the last century. This is our protagonist-to-be, y’all, and while the later books bend over backward to excuse his behavior, let us never forget that core of “basically loveable utter fuckup.”
(That this whole section is cut from what’s meant to be a standalone movie more or less makes sense – the plot doesn’t strictly need Lestat for Santiago to go through with killing Claudia, and its inclusion mainly serves as a hook for relationship stuff later. But damn, it’s the one cut scene I would have really liked to see Cruise perform).
While Louis knows what’s happened the minute he sees that dress, he can’t let it go until he has proof. And the others are all too happy to usher him into the courtyard to see the remains: Madeleine, less than a year old, leaves a mummified corpse, while Claudia is only hair and ash (and if you missed the Very Subtle Parallel to the embracing mother and child Claudia killed back in the Rue Royale, don’t worry; Anne wants to make extra sure we didn’t miss it by having Louis bring it up).
Louis storms out in an apoplectic haze, not sure of anything except that he’s going to kill every last vampire in that theatre. Armand tries to talk him into leaving, letting it go, and Louis rounds on him instead – saying, quite astutely, that Armand was the most powerful and could have stopped them. It’s just that he didn’t want to.
“ ‘You held sway over them. they feared you!’ I went on. ‘You could have stopped them if you’d been willing to use that power even beyond your own self-prescribed limits. It was your sense of yourself you would not violate. Your own precious conception of truth! I understand you perfectly. I see in you the reflection of myself!’
‘I understand you only too well…’ I said. ‘That passivity in me has been the core of it all, the real evil. That weakness, that refusal to compromise a fractured and stupid morality, that awful pride! For that, I let myself become the thing I am, when I knew it was wrong. For that, I let Claudia become the vampire she became, when I knew it was wrong. For that, I stood by and let her kill Lestat, when I knew that was wrong, the very thing that was her undoing. I lifted not a finger to prevent it. And Madeleine, Madeleine , I let her come to that, when I should never have made her a creature like ourselves. I knew that was wrong! Well, I tell you I am no longer that passive, weak creature that has spun evil from evil till the web is vast and thick while I remain its stultified victim. It’s over!
And with that speech…the story is more or less over, at least as far as Paris. Not in terms of actual events: there are quite a few pages during which Louis creates and enacts his plan to burn down the theatre, barricading the other vampires inside and even getting the chance to decapitate Santiago with a scythe. But for all that it’s technically harrowing, executed with a ticking clock right before the sun comes up, it’s pretty rote in description. Louis tells it like something he had to do, uninvested but driven, without the passion or reflection that’s characterized much smaller and comparatively inconsequential moments in the story.
Yup. This scene sure existed
If we believe the story he’s spinning for Daniel (from the present day, mind you), there’s no emotion to tell because he’d lost Claudia, and therefore everything afterward is a desolate emotional wasteland. But now we have to strap on our close reading goggles, because the entire frame narrative has taken place after Claudia’s death. All of it, everything he’s told Daniel, including those pieces he described so passionately. On the other hand, we have his own admission that he wouldn’t talk about things too close to his heart, waaaaaaaay back at the beginning. So as we enter these last bits, remember: it’s not that Louis feels nothing about these events. It’s that he feels too much.
There’s a brief epilogue to the burning sequence in which Louis breaks into the Louvre and meets Armand there, and the latter admits that he fully knew what Louis planned to do and let it happen. Armand’s logic, “the actual reason and the least true,” is that he planned on leaving Paris anyway, and he didn’t need the place anymore, so he abandoned it. And while Louis is horrified by that explanation, he chooses to stay.
“ ‘Yes,’ I said softly to him, ‘that is the crowning evil, that we can even go so far as to love each other, you and I. And who else would show us a particle of love, a particle of compassion or mercy? Who else, knowing us as we know each other, could do anything but destroy us? Yet we can love each other.’
“And for a long moment, he stood there looking at me, drawing nearer his head gradually inclined to one side, his lips parted as if he meant to speak. But then he only smiled and shook his head gently to confess he didn’t understand.
And then –
Oh no, wait, shit, I haven’t done this in a while. Hold on.
REMEMBER, THIS IS A VERY HETEROSEXUAL NOVEL WITH NO QUEER CONTENT TO SPEAK OF.
Okay. So Louis mentions over the next page and a half that he and Armand, y’know, traveled all over the world and spent sixty years together, but Louis never ever felt anything for him and ONLY despised him for killing Claudia no really. It certainly wouldn’t be characteristic of our very reliable narrator to hide his feelings because he felt ashamed or like he was betraying Claudia’s memory by still feeling love for her killer (as he describes in that dialogue up there only to immediately discard it in narration).
So after those SIXTY YEARS Armand senses Louis pulling away and into his depression that he’s basically catatonic, and so asks Louis to show him New Orleans in the hope of sparking some kind of emotional reaction. He even plays the trump card he’s been holding onto over the decades: that Lestat didn’t die in the fire. Louis’ reaction is not, perhaps, what he expected.
“I hadn’t thought of Lestat at all the night I’d torched the theater. I’d thought of Santiago and Celeste and the others who had destroyed Claudia. Lestat, in fact, had aroused in me feelings which I hadn’t wished to confide in anyone, feelings I’d wished to forget, despite Claudia’s death. Hatred had not been one of them.
FEELINGS LIKE FRIENDSHIP, I’M SURE. PLATONIC, HETERO FRIENDSHIP.
Dudes bein’ bros
And because of those feelings that dare not speak their name, Louis goes looking for his maker. And if you thought his appearance in Paris was pathetic, this one goes up to twelve. In the next book Lestat will flat out claim that this meeting never happened (though he does admit meeting Armand at around the same time and being pretty pathetic, so methinks I spy a hole in this logic). Regardless, I’d also buy that Louis is playing it up a little bit for the sake of the “cautionary tale” angle he’s trying to spin.
Basically, Lestat has become a shut-in and made an ingrate fledgling who brings him babies to eat, and he can’t bear the incoming progress of the twentieth century (we’re just after World War I, timeline wise; feel free to imagine Louis and Armand in dapper double breasted suits).
And we’re talking pathetic here, folks. Louis doesn’t even recognize him at first. He’s staying in a room full of rotting animal corpses, with the fireplace stoked in the middle of summer. His voice is a nasally whine. He’s just BEGGING Louis to stay with him. Exactly zero punches are pulled. And it seems like there’s a very specific reason Louis is doing it, too.
It seemed a sadness for something else, something beyond Lestat that only included him and was part of the great awful sadness of all the things I’d ever lost or loved or known. It seemed then I was in a different place, a different time. And this different place and time was very real, and it was a room where the insects had hummed as they were humming here and the air had been close and thick with death, and with the spring perfume. And I was on the verge of knowing that place and knowing with it a terrible pain, a pain so terrible that my mind veered away from it, said, No, don’t take me back to that place – and suddenly it was receding, and I was with Lestat here now.
Lestat begs him to explain how he’s survived all these years without falling apart, without feeling the drag of time, and I am reminded of that really amazing episode of Daria with the dead guy. But the thing is, Louis doesn’t have an answer.
He’s sorry, Clark. He’ll never do it again, really
Louis has now spent so long in his borderline catatonia, his numbness that’s lower even than suicidal ideation, that the mere thought of trying to claw his way out – feeling his emotions and beginning to overcome his grief – is too painful for him to contemplate. And it’s hard to blame him. It’s about as far from healthy coping as one could get, but he’s also completely alone. There’s no one who can help him through this – even the people who love him are too burdened by their own cornucopia of mental illnesses and trauma to understand and help him out of what he’s going through. There are no vampire therapists. No Prozac. So he shuts down in order to keep moving, unable to rise above a basic level of survival.
The same night he leaves Lestat, Armand leaves him. He’s despaired of his last ditch effort to try and bring some emotion out of Louis, unable to understand him if he can’t read his emotions and unable to rouse anything. Even his admission that he was responsible for Claudia’s death, which Louis figured out a long time ago, produces nothing.
He bowed his head at that moment as if he were defeated. And something in the way that he felt that defeat, something in the way his smooth white face reflected it only for an instant, reminded me of someone else I’d seen defeated in just that way. And it was amazing to me that it took me such a long moment to see Claudia’s face in that attitude; Claudia, as she stood by the bed in the room at the Hotel Saint-Gabriel pleading with me to transform Madeleine into one of us. That same helpless look, that defeat which seemed to be so heartfelt that everything beyond it was forgotten. And then he, like Claudia, seemed to rally, to pull on some reserve of strength. But he said softly to the air, ‘I am dying!’
“And I, watching him, hearing him, the only creature under god who heard him, knowing that it was true, said nothing.
Unable to stand being on his own, unable to process the world without help, Armand despairs. He leaves Louis alone, returning to ask him if he “needs anything” – a potent sort of question, obviously deeper than immediate material comfort. And when Louis says he doesn’t, Armand is gone.
And that, Louis says, is the end. He came to San Francisco because there’s nothing there that reminds him of the past, and he’s been alone ever since.
At which point the brilliance of the frame narrative becomes clear, because Daniel has exactly the same reaction as the reader: he calls bullshit. More than that, his crush is full on at this point. Why shouldn’t it be? Louis just spent the whole night telling him about how no one truly heard him, no one listened, and he met all these mortals he felt special connections to only for things to end tragically. Of course dumb, romantic, 20-year-old Daniel thinks he’s Bella Swann (which, actually, is not an unapt comparison for what happens in his coming years).
Louis tells him that it had to end this way, that even if Claudia had lived and left him he still would’ve been miserable and alone (which I’m sure is by far the easiest thing for him to believe). Interestingly on that front, there was an early draft of the story where Claudia lived, running away with two other young vampires to have adventures across Europe. But Anne, for reasons I suspect might have to do with catharsis, wasn’t satisfied with it and wrote the version as it now exists. And while every other character at some point has proven not-quite-dead-for-reasons in the more recent books, Claudia hasn’t really shown up except for a few maybe-ghost-maybe-hallucination moments – once when her diary is found in Queen of the Damned, and as a hallucination urging Lestat to kill himself in Tale of the Body Thief (wherein her and Louis’ brief appearances are the only tolerable thing).
Daniel goes so far as to demand Louis make him a vampire, and Louis despairs of his cautionary tale not inspiring any caution whatsoever. But he figures he can make one last object lesson.
“Do you see?” whispered the vampire, and the long, silky lips drew up over his teeth and two long fangs came down into the boy’s flesh.
The boy was moaning, his lower lip loose and trembling as if in nausea. He moaned again louder, and his head fell back and his eyes rolled up into his head. The vampire set him down gently in the chair.
“Will I…die?” the boy whispered as he looked up slowly, his mouth wet and slack. “Will I die?” he groaned, his lip trembling.
“I don’t know,” the vampire said, and he smiled.
AND BEFORE YOU SAY IT, Interview predates Red Dragon by five years.
Daniel passes out, wakes up the next day to find that he is indeed alive and it wasn’t a dream, because the tapes are still there. And his response? He replays the last bit of tape and writes down the description of the building where Lestat was holed up, meaning to find him. The end.
Good job, Louis, you doomed another one.
Manga Daniel is on vacation from his day job as an extra in FAKE
But really, it’s damn near impossible to blame him. Either of them. Louis is desperate for any kind of connection but ultimately unable to allow it because of his self-loathing. And Daniel is all of us, in the end, which may be why he goes unnamed in this first book. He’s taken in by the romance of it, unable to really interface with Louis because a) of the fantastic allure of living forever, and b) this is the first night they’ve met, for God’s sake. In fact, I’m not convinced they couldn’t have had a meaningful rapport. But that’s a tale for another day.
Since its publication in 1976, IWTV has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. It produced a comic book, a graphic novel from Claudia’s point of view, a manga by Tokuma Shoten, a film, and approximately eight million BL manga about a sensitive dark-haired philosopher and a brash blond seducer that I refuse to believe are entirely coincidence. It introduced the idea of child vampires and the existential horror component of eternal life, and while it’s far more a gothic romance than a horror novel, its few moments of gruesome imagery can be potent stuff. And while it almost always dies in translation (though they did make a movie accurately portraying Louis’ debilitating depression – it was called Melancholia, and they cast Kirsten Dunst), Louis is a moving and fascinating protagonist. Perhaps he’s doomed that way, since moving out of his head means having to scrutinize his façade without any kind of help, and there’s a thick wall of depression muffling just about every emotion he openly admits to. But I still like him, even if Anne doesn’t.
Oh, let’s have on last bit of official heterosexuality for the road, shall we
Next Time we’ll be starting with The Vampire Lestat, which was published a whopping nine years later, and features a different narrator, tone, and aggressively tries to rewrite the continuity. And if you thought Louis was an unreliable narrator, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
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Regarding Claudia and Rice’s possible “catharsis”: If one were a parent with a dying child, suppose one were to be granted a choice: either have the child die or have them live on stuck in time, never to grow old. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d find the latter situation to be unbearable. I can very much understand why Rice didn’t let Claudia live beyond the pages of this book.
I’d also add that there’s somewhat of a real-life analog to Claudia’s fate: Severely disabled children whose parents opt for (extremely controversial) medical treatments to forestall puberty and limit their growth, in an effort to make caring for the children easier as they and their parents grow older. Google for “Ashley Treatment”, and note that Ashley, like Claudia, is a girl.
(Oh, and while you’re at it, check out the Wikipedia article on “growth attenuation therapy”, which is part of the Ashley Treatment but has also been applied to girls who were otherwise normal except for being predicted to end up significantly taller than the female average. Wikipedia references an article that ascribes the past popularity of the therapy to the “importance of heterosexual marriage for American society in [the 1950s and early 1960s]”, with physicians “charged with preventing excess growth to increase a girl’s physical desirability and her chances of a successful marriage.”)
Thank you for your series of thoughtful essays!
(P. S.: This has gotten unseemly long, so feel free to ignore. It appears someone has too much free time on their hands.)
Personally I have always thought IWTV is by far the best of the bunch of The Vampire Chronicles. I feel the quality of further instaltments notably decreases; some are good, others are trash but fun, the rest is simply trash. I’m not sure why the complexity and sensibility of the first book is lost later on (at least to me), but I suspect it has something to do with the author pouring her heart out on these pages as a form of therapy, while the continuation is mostly about her having fun and making money. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but I wish it was otherwise.
As much as I like the first book, I understand why Anne doesn’t want to return to Louis’ POV. He is modelled after herself, during the time she probably hit her emotional rock bottom; no wonder she doesn’t want to return to his mindset. (Hm, I do wonder why she chose male alter ego?) I just wish she had sidelined him with a bit more of respect to his character, but I generally feel characterization is a problem with many of her characters as the series progresses. (Even Claudia, who’s dead. I simply refuse to take what’s written in Merrick seriously. Claudia may have had good reasons to despise both Lestat and Louis and she could be manipulative and calculating, but I don’t believe for a moment she was so _cold_. The idea of it just takes out the heart out of the story (for me, anyway). IWTV Claudia both hated and loved Lestat and Louis, but in different ratios. In Lestat’s case won the hatred, in Louis’ the love. Anyway, I find it passing strange that the author chose to turn the character based on her own dead daughter into a vengenful hearless Bad Seed protagonist, albeit one with reasons for her behaviour.)
And of course, then there’s Lestat. I’m curious as to what you are going to write regarding his secrecy in IWTV. I’ve never bought the whole thing with Marius ordering him to keep quiet. Lestat never much cared for others told him (like, ignoring Marius’ advice not to make a vampire out of a person who has not outgrown puberty… he goes and makes a FIVE-year-old). Regardless, it wouldn’t explain why tells them big fat nothing of his previous life, existence of other vampires, and their _rules_. It is possible he didn’t want to tell them about his mortal family, fledglings, and Marius, because he feared to look like a loser whom nobody loves or wants around, but he could have given them a general outline with some omissions, certainly? But, most of all, the _rules_. He had made two very unconventional fledglings (one possesses the body of a small child, the other is too human-like and crippled in vampiric powers), but he gives them no advice or warning how to get around in case something happens to him (he’s immortal, but there’s always the risk of an accident with fire or sunlight). Or what if other vampires appeared in New Orleans one day? Had it never truly crossed him mind they would see Claudia and possibly also Louis as aberrations to be made away with, and the two of them would have no idea they may be in a great danger?
TVA+ Lestat may be occasionally brash, selfish, stupid, or even cruel, but it’s usually spur-of-a-moment decisions, while the Rue Royale situation lasted for decades. I can’t help it, but I think he wanted to be the leader, the one in control, upon whom they are dependant. He didn’t consider them his equals. (There’s a connection someone else has made in a different discussion that while he had given Gabrielle, Nicolas, and David blood from his throat, Louis and Claudia got it from his wrist, which seems less intimate, plus the fact that he had close relationships with Gabrielle, Nicki, and David when they had been mortal, while he had never attempted to strike a friendship with mortal Louis, not to mention Claudia, who had been turned only as a tool/an experiment.)
Now, I know that Louis is an unreliable narrator and portrays Lestat in a bad light, but his withholding of key information in combination with his superior strength, mocking of his partner, changing moods, entrapment via child, threats to harm or replace Louis and/or Claudia, and Claudia’s reasoning they have to kill him because he won’t let them go, he comes across a teensy bit like – dare I say it – a domestic tyrant and Louis as his ‘battered spouse’. I don’t think that he ever truly meant them harm or abused them , but in the end his negligence and attitude towards them had brought them ruin. (It’s doubtful that the author intended for that reading, but going by IWTV as a stand-alone, it can be taken that way, imho. It had been my first impression once upon a time, but, hey, personal bias.) Anyhow, while they had to have tender and fun-filled moments (otherwise Louis wouldn’t be so hesitant to leave), I doubt their life had been “perfect” as Lestat describes it. I think they had to have bad periods of cabin fever, and Louis had to be anxious in the first years, since his only companions had been a little girl and an attractive and charming, but also unpredictable and cynical guy, about whom he had known next to nothing. Not to mention, he used to be the head of the family, the male protector of his mother and sister, a manager of a large plantation, and someone who regarded other people as his legal property, but suddenly he lost all control of his life and found himself in a position of subservience to a more dominant and powerful being. No matter how passive and depressed he had been, he couldn’t have been entirely OK with that.
Idk, I may be too unromantic and jaded, but imho it would have been better if Anne did not pair them up again. Sometimes the past is simply too painful and complicated to be fixed, and this seems like one of those cases to me. Besides, I believe their personalities are ill-suited for each other. OTOH most relationships between Anne’s vampires are messed up, and sometimes the power disparity in the couple has been much greater (Armand/Marius *ahem ahem*), and it is said that the opposites attract, so what do I know.
If you lasted this long (unlikely, I know), what do you think of the musician guy (Antoine?) Lestat ended up turning? Do you think he had really meant to make this guy before Claudia attacked him? He was too old to be another “child”, so I guess he might have intended a menage a trois with him and Louis? Or did he want to give them another companion to ease tensions in the household? And what did he intend to say Louis about the night in the swamp?
Ugh, Antoine. A character that should’ve been interesting but popped up far too late into Anne’s relentless self-indulgence period (really, his role would’ve been far more fascinatingly filled by the discovery that Armand had lied about Nicki’s death). I don’t think Lestat had planned what he wanted with Antoine – he was drawn in by someone who resembled his Nicki, perhaps remembering Marius’ theory about vampiric souls being reborn (which also drew him to Louis, though presumably he’d discarded that matchup by then). Probably he wouldn’t have turned him had things not gone so sour.
And I think Lestat very much enjoyed having power in the Rue Royale. It was ‘perfect’ in his description because he had his fledgling whom he loved, who simply COULDN’T leave him like Nicki and Gabrielle did. His joy in the dependence wasn’t so much in their weakness but in his fear of being alone (not that that excuses it, even for a minute; likewise, I definitely believe Lestat is bipolar, explaining those meteoric highs and lows. but that doesn’t excuse the emotional abuse it put Louis through).
I’m not sure Anne even know, when IWTV was a stand alone, what Lestat wanted to say. Maybe that it had never been about the money, and that he’d always loved Louis with all his heart. Maybe he WAS finally going to tell Marius’ secrets, which definitely would’ve incensed Armand. Maybe it was an empty ploy. We’ll never know.
As for Marius….hoo boy do I not care for Marius, as I’m sure will be quickly evident. I suspect the reason he got Lestat to keep his secrets was due to how heavily he implied that to know them was a danger – and that if other vampires didn’t come looking for them (like they did with Armand), then Marius might, say, be able to know about it all the way from Europe. Where, BTW, he can totally set people on fire from that distance with his mind. BUT DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT CAUSE YOU WON’T TELL, RIGHT. So Lestat keeps the secret out of some misguided belief that he’s protecting Louis, even when it completely sabotages their relationship for a long time (that element of openness gives their reunion a HUGE leg up in terms of potential success).